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edited by Curtis Hand from press statement. All images: USCG.

The crew of the US Coast Guard (USCG) Cutter Tahoma (WMEC 908) returned to Kittery on Friday after a successful 79-day counter-narcotics and smuggling patrol in the Eastern Pacific.

The Tahoma’s crew interdicted two vessels, seizing 7,300 pounds of cocaine, worth a combined total of roughly $105 million, and detained eight suspected drug smugglers.

The crew also coordinated operations with US USCG Law Enforcement Detachment deployed aboard the Canadian Kingston-class coastal defence vessel HMCS Saskatoon (MM 709). The collaboration supported the seizure of an additional 4,000 pounds of cocaine and the detention of four suspected smugglers.

A flight crew and aviation detachment from the USCG’s Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron deployed aboard the Tahoma for the patrol. HITRON crews are the USCG’s airborne sharpshooters, specializing in disabling the engines of vessels that refuse to stop with precision rifle fire.

The Tahoma’s crew participated in Operation Orion VI, an international naval campaign to combat drug trafficking. During the operation, Tahoma patrolled in coordinated areas with the Colombian coastal patrol vessel Arc Punta Ardita (CPV 147) and rendezvoused for a formation steaming exercise.

“It’s been an extremely successful deployment for us – the crew demonstrated great resilience and perseverance with each challenge, and I am proud to serve with each and every one of them,” said Cmdr Eric Johnson, commanding officer of Tahoma.

On 1 April 2021, US Southern Command of the USCG increased counter-narcotics operations in the Western Hemisphere to disrupt the flow of drugs. Numerous US agencies from the Departments of Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security cooperated to combat transnational organized crime. The USCG, Navy, Customs and Border Protection, FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and allied and international partner agencies play a role in counter-drug operations.

The fight against drug cartels in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea requires unity of effort in all phases from detection, monitoring, and interdictions, to criminal prosecutions for these interdictions by United States Attorney’s Offices from the Middle District of Florida, the Southern District of Florida and the Southern District of California. The law enforcement phase of counter-smuggling operations in the Eastern Pacific Ocean is conducted under the authority of the USCG Eleventh District, headquartered in Alameda. The interdictions, including the actual boardings, are led and conducted by the US USCG members.

Tahoma is a 270-foot cutter based at the port town of Kittery, Maine. The vessel and 100-person crew execute maritime law enforcement, homeland security, and search and rescue missions supporting US USCG operations throughout the Western Hemisphere.